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issue: May 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Engineering Fitness Appliances
Standing Out in the Crowd


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Since changing its logo design, exercise equipment manufacturer True Fitness Technology, Inc. has been searching for the best way to display the new design on its products.

In order to differentiate itself from the competition, True Fitness worked with graphic design and manufacturing company Douglas Corporation on a new decal for its fitness equipment product line. The new 3D decal uses a combination of platable-grade, injection-molded ABS plastic and platinum plating. While True Fitness initially designed the decal for its commercial exercise equipment, it plans to implement the new design it into its entire product line.

“The logo font was a completely different design,” says Frank Trulaske, president of True Fitness (O’Fallon, MO, U.S.). “It was similar, but not as bold and refined as the current one.” However, he says, a problem with the logo was that the brand name came across flat on the design. Unhappy with that aspect, the company decided to examine the possibility of a raised logo.

True Fitness wanted something different from the exercise equipment industry standard and thus, contacted graphic design and manufacturing company Douglas Corporation (Eden Prairie, MN, U.S.) about a urethane-domed coated decal. With the help of Douglas, True Fitness examined other types of logos. “They had a logo style that they knew they wanted to follow, but as far as the form of it—what material and what exact shape it might take and how it can be displayed—that’s where we worked with them to come up with the design they now have,” says Jim Rinck, vice president of Marketing and Sales for Douglas.

As a designer and manufacturer of visual graphics, Douglas offers a variety of materials and processes in-house, such as injection molding, electroplating, screen printing, and urethane coating, among many others. “Often, the processes themselves are going to determine how the part is going to look, even more so than the material,” Mr. Rinck says. Parts can be 2D or 3D in any number of forms.

According to Mark Mueller, product manager for True Fitness, after looking at examples of parts using different manufacturing processes, the company decided on a 3D metallic badge and developed a logo from that point.

Once the process and materials were chosen by True Fitness, Douglas began work on the exact design. The company’s engineering department created math data and tool patterns to produce and cut a wax model of the logo. That model was sent to True Fitness for approval before the actual tool was cut. According to Mr. Rinck, True previewed a number of iterations before approving the final design.

For True Fitness’s 3D logo, Douglas selected a platable grade of injection-molded ABS plastic used in injection molding. According to Mr. Rinck, electroplating plastic is not a typical operation. “We can offer the same electroplating—a copper nickel chromium finish—that is used on metal,” he says. “It provides the same durability and offers a multi-dimensional part at less cost than a metal nameplate.”

After electroplating the plastic, Douglas added platinum plating to the badge. “That is quite unusual—I don’t think it had been used previously, and I still don’t think anyone else has used it within the industry,” Mr. Rinck says.

For the physical shape of the True Fitness badging, Douglas incorporated contours into the part’s face. “That lends a lot to the logo’s design,” Mr. Rinck says. “If you have a flat-faced part, you’re going to get a totally different look. Now there’s a lot of dimension to it, a lot of depth.”

Another interesting aspect of the True Fitness logo is that it comprises individual letters and components. The badge is produced so that each letter, as well as the logo graphic, stands alone. There are six separate pieces: the individual letters of the word “True” and two separate pieces for the logo. The individual pieces are arranged on a face carrier strip that keeps them in alignment with a removable adhesive liner on the back. The back liner is removed from the pressure-sensitive adhesive, and the badge is affixed to the exercise equipment. Then the front liner is removed from the installed badge, leaving it in proper alignment.

For True Fitness, the purpose of the new logo design and badging was to place the company a step above the competition in terms of styling. According to Mr. Mueller, the company’s exercise product line has a richer look with new simplified coloring utilizing shades of black and titanium. He says that the new badging, with its use of light and depth, helps to accentuate the styling of the product lines.

According to Mr. Trulaske, even though it is not inexpensive to put the new type of badging on True Fitness’s products, it is one of the smarter things the company can do in the long run to position its brand and products. “A lot of products can be well styled, but if they don’t have the right colors, aesthetics, and badging, they look less than what they may be,” he says.

“The 3D look is harder to produce and thus requires more tooling dollars,” adds Mr. Rinck of Douglas. “But when it’s all said and done, it’s the premium [choice].” He says that since the exercise equipment industry standard for product badging is a decal, True Fitness is portraying itself as the class of the industry.

While True first applied its new badge to its commercial products, the company was so impressed with the effect that it has extended the badge’s use to include consumer strength equipment and high-end home treadmills.

According to Mr. Mueller, the company has plans to add the badge to its entire product line, and that the badge will have the same look and size for all of its products. The company even designed a special bracket to hold the badge on its flexibility equipment because the products didn’t have a place for the badge to be situated. “We felt strongly enough about the look and the badge that we wanted to put it in a prominent location,” Mr. Mueller says. The badge is positioned front and center on True Fitness’s flexibility equipment.

According to Mr. Rinck, the use of a single-size badge also had a more practical reason than styling. “If they were to tool up for multiple sizes, there would be a significant tooling expense,” he says. “So I think they zeroed in on the size that would accommodate a number of products. That way, they could also use higher volumes of one part and bring down their piece price.”

Even though such a change can be expensive, Mr. Trulaske continues to emphasize that the benefits in terms of product placement and styling are worth it. He says that everyone in the company is positive about the new type of badging, from the plant workers to the sales force. “What I’m excited about is that now we’ve got our ‘True’ badging on the product—it’s sensational—it looks great and the designs of the products are also great,” he says. “The two go hand-in-hand.”

 

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